Mariette Hartley

Active - 1962 - 2016  |   Born - Jun 21, 1940 in Weston, Connecticut, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Adventure, Action

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Biography by AllMovie

Never the typical ingénue, American actress Mariette Hartley was distinguished by attractively offbeat facial features and a full, throaty voice -- acting tools that enabled her to play a wide spectrum of ages and personalities even when she was barely out of her teens. The granddaughter of behavioral psychologist John B. Watson, Hartley began her training at Carnegie Tech, then studied acting under Eva LeGalleine . Shakespeare was Hartley's forte in her salad days; thus, she was a full-blown professional before the age of 21. Hartley's first film, Ride the High Country (1961), may well have been her best; as the runaway bride of a mentally deficient mountain man, Hartley was permitted to forego cutesiness and glamour, spending most of the film in dusty male western garb. She was so good in this first appearance that MGM literally had no idea what to do with her; the solution was to cast her as a garden-variety damsel in distress in Drums of Africa (1963), which Hartley now regards as her worst film (and it is -- far worse than the more obvious candidate, 1971's The Return of Count Yorga). Then as now, Hartley was better served on TV than in films. Appearing with regularity on such programs as Twilight Zone and Bonanza, Hartley exuded an intelligence and versatility rare in so young an actress. She gained a following with her recurring role on the nighttime soapera Peyton Place (1965), then provided the only bright moments of the misfire satirical sitcom The Hero (1966), in which she played the wife of a bumbling TV cowboy (Richard Mulligan). Her TV work load increased in the '70s, during which time she appeared as futuristic heroine Lyra-a in Gene Roddenberry's TV pilot Genesis II, a role which gained a great deal of press attention due to Hartley's exotic midriff makeup (her character was endowed with two navels). She also won an Emmy for her appearance in a 1978 installment of The Incredible Hulk. A popular talk-show raconteur, Hartley was able to parlay her no-nonsense persona into a series of lucrative camera commercials, in which she co-starred with James Garner. Her easy rapport with Garner led many to believe that she was married to the Rockford Files star, compelling her to make public appearances wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the message "I am NOT Mrs. James Garner" (she was, in fact, married to producer/director Patrick Boyriven). Her high audience "Q" rating led certain TV producers to believe that Hartley would be ideally cast as a news reporter on the 1983 sitcom Goodnight, Beantown. The casting was good, the show wasn't. Nor were follow-ups in this vein, including a foredoomed hitch as co-host of the 1987 revamping of CBS Morning News titled The Morning Program and the very short-lived newsroom-oriented weekly drama WIOU (1990). That the actress took to kidding about her many TV failures only added to her upbeat public image -- an image which masked a surfeit of grief brought on by the alcoholism and suicide of Hartley's father, which formed the basis of her 1990 book Breaking the Silence. Audiences were able to see this serious side of Mariette Hartley in her frequent TV-movie appearances, notably her performance as grieving mother Candy Lightner in M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Mariette Hartley remained busy on films and in television into the '90s; once again, the TV work was more rewarding than the movie assignments, which included such negligible entertainments as Encino Man (1992).

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  • Was raised under the principles of her behavioral psychologist grandfather, John B. Watson, who stated that children shouldn't be cuddled or held.
  • Was the head of her high school's drama department.
  • Studied at the Repertory Stratford and Lucille Lortel's White Barn Theatre.
  • On June 11, 1987, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.
  • Was featured in a series of Polaroid commercials with actor James Garner.
  • In 1993, was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Fine Arts, from Rider College.
  • Was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1994.
  • One of the founders of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.